It's been more than 20 years since the Audubon Zoo underwent a total renovation
that turned it from one of the worst zoos in the country into one of the
best. The achievement is still worth noting, and the result is a place
of justifiable civic pride that delights even non-zoo fans. While a terrific
destination for visitors with children, this small and sweet attraction
offers a good change of pace for anyone. Note that on hot and humid days,
you should plan your visit for early or late in the day; otherwise, the
animals will be sleeping off the heat.
Here, in a setting of subtropical plants, waterfalls, and lagoons, some
1,800 animals (including rare and endangered species) live in natural
habitats rather than cages. Don't miss the replica of a Louisiana swamp
(complete with a rare white gator) or the "Butterflies in Flight"
exhibit, where more than 1,000 butterflies live among lush, colorful vegetation.
A memorable way to visit the zoo is to arrive on the stern-wheeler John
James Audubon and depart on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar. You can
reach the streetcar by walking through Audubon Park or by taking the free
During your visit to the zoo, look for the bronze statue of naturalist
John James Audubon standing in a grove of trees with a notebook and pencil
in hand. Also, look for a funny-looking mound near the river -- it was
constructed so that the children of this flatland city could see what
a hill looked like.
Aquarium of the Americas
Located on the Mississippi River bank in scenic Woldenberg Riverfront
Park, the Aquarium of the Americas hosts daily "expeditions"
into the major aquatic habitats of North and South America: the Caribbean
Sea, the Amazon Rainforest, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.
The acclaimed animal collection includes thousands of fish, reptiles and
birds, including many creatures native to Louisiana waters, from rare
paddlefish and swamp-dwelling alligators, to Gulf sea turtles that are
among the world's most critically endangered animals. Each exhibit closely
mirrors the beauty and diversity of wild habitats, and opportunities for
hands-on fun abound, from shark petting to stage shows.
New Orleans Museum of Art
Often called NOMA, this museum is located in an idyllic section of City
Park. The front portion of the museum is the original large, imposing
neoclassical building ("sufficiently modified to give a subtropical
appearance," said the architect Samuel Marx); the rear portion is
a striking contrast of curves and contemporary styles.
The museum opened in 1911 after a gift to the City Park Commission from
Isaac Delgado, a sugar broker and Jamaican immigrant. Today it houses
a 40,000-piece collection including pre-Columbian and Native American
ethnographic art; 16th- through 20th-century European paintings, drawings,
sculptures, and prints; early American art; Asian art; and one of the
six largest decorative glass collections in the United States. The changing
exhibits frequently have regional resonance, such as the extensive retrospective
on Degas, which focused on the time he spent in the city, or the one devoted
to religious art and objects collected from local churches. Another exhibit
focused on -- how's this for a complete change of pace -- "dirty
pictures" throughout the modern era!
This past year, the museum opened the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, 5 acres
of gardens, grass, and walkways that spotlight 50 modern sculptures by
artists such as Henry Moore, Gaston Lachaise, Elizabeth Frink, George
Segal, and others. It's quickly become a New Orleans cultural highlight
and is open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm, with free admission.
The Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase Transfer and was the
seat of the Spanish municipal government in New Orleans. The Cabildo provides
a comprehensive exhibit focusing on Louisiana's early history through
to Reconstruction. Also part of the Louisiana State Museum system is the
Presbytere. The Presbytere was then used by the city as a courthouse until
1911 when it became part of the Louisiana State Museum. It now houses
a behind the scenes look at Mardi Gras in Louisiana. The Old U.S. Mint,
the only building in America to have served both as a U.S. and Confederate
Mint, now houses exhibits on Newcomb Pottery and New Orleans Jazz. The
1850 House recreates what a residence would have looked like during the
Antebellum era. Faithfully furnished with domestic goods and decorative
arts of the period, the 1850 House depicts middle class family life during
Those who have been to Disneyland might be forgiven if they experience
some déjà vu upon first seeing the French Quarter. It's
somewhat more worn, of course, and, in spots, a whole lot smellier. But
it's also real. However, thanks perhaps in part to Disney, many tourists
treat the Quarter like a theme park, going from bar to bar instead of
ride to ride, broadcasting their every move with rowdy shrieks of merriment.
Fine -- except, it isn't an amusement park constructed just for the delight
of out-of-towners. It's an actual neighborhood, one of the most visually
interesting in America, and one that has existed for more than 200 years.
(Some of the people living in the Quarter are the fifth generation of
their family to do so.)
There's a great deal to the French Quarter -- history, architecture, cultural
oddities -- and to overlook all that in favor of T-shirt shops and the
ubiquitous bars is a darn shame, which is not to say we don't understand,
and rather enjoy, the lure of the more playful angle of the area. And
as much as we find Bourbon Street tacky and often disgusting, we walk
down it at least once every time we are in town. We just don't want you
to end up like some tourists who never even get off Bourbon. (And regardless
of where you go in the Quarter, please remember that you are walking by
people's homes. You wouldn't like it if someone did something biologically
disgusting on your doorstep, so please afford French Quarter dwellers
the same courtesy.)
A French engineer named Adrien de Pauger laid out the Quarter in 1718,
and today it's a great anomaly in America. Almost all other American cities
have torn down or gutted their historic centers, but thanks to a strict
preservation policy, the area looks exactly as it always has and is still
the center of town.
Aside from Bourbon Street, you will find the most bustling activity at
Jackson Square, where musicians, artists, fortunetellers, jugglers, and
those peculiar "living statue" performance artists (a step below
mime, and that's pretty pathetic) gather to sell their wares or entertain
for change. Royal Street is home to numerous pricey antiques shops, with
other interesting stores on Chartres and Decatur streets and the cross
The closer you get to Esplanade Avenue and toward Rampart Street, the
more residential the Quarter becomes, and buildings are entirely homes
(in the business sections, the ground floors are commercial and the stories
above apartments). Walk through these areas, and peep in through any open
gate; surprises await in the form of graceful brick and flagstone-lined
courtyards filled with foliage and bubbling fountains.
The Vieux Carré Commission is ever vigilant about balancing contemporary
economic interests in the Quarter with concerns for historic preservation.
Not only has the commission encouraged restoration, but it has also joined
in the battle to hold back certain would-be intruders of the modern world.
There's not a traffic light in the whole of the French Quarter -- they're
relegated to fringe streets -- and streetlights are of the old gaslight
style. In 1996 large city buses were banned from the neighborhood. During
a good part of each day, Royal and Bourbon streets are pedestrian malls,
and no vehicles are ever allowed in the area around Jackson Square. We
also applaud the hard-drawn lines that have mostly kept out the generic
chain stores that populate most city centers these days, threatening to
turn all of America into one big mall, one city indistinguishable from
Though much of New Orleans is made for walking, the Quarter is particularly
pedestrian-friendly. The streets are laid out in an almost perfect rectangle,
so it's nearly impossible to get lost. It's also so well traveled that
it is nearly always safe, particularly in the central parts. Again, as
you get toward the fringes (especially near Rampart) and as night falls,
you should exercise caution; stay in the more bustling parts and try not
to walk alone.
Museums--You might be interested in the Germaine Wells Mardi Gras Museum
at 813 Bienville St., on the second floor of Arnaud's restaurant (tel.
504/523-5433; fax 504/581-7908), where you'll find a private collection
of Mardi Gras costumes and ball gowns dating from around 1910 to 1960.
Admission is free, and the museum is open during restaurant hours.
The wonder of nature is magnified at the Entergy IMAX® Theatre, where
bigger-than-life adventures illustrate the world's most advanced motion
picture technology. The nation's first IMAX to be located at an Aquarium,
the theater uses superior sound and in-your-face imagery to complement
nature themes advanced by the Aquarium of the Americas and other Audubon
Institute facilities. Coined from the words "maximum" and "image,"
IMAX delivers just that on a screen four times the size of conventional
movie screens. Audiences are immersed in the action, from undersea explorations
to jungle journeys, and mesmerized by the diversity of creatures that
most never see in real life. Entertaining and educational, IMAX is an
unparalleled window on the world we all share.
Jazzland Theme Park
6600 Plaza Drive, Suite 206 New Orleans, LA 70127, General Information
1-504-242-0220. Jazzland is a 140-acre amusement park in New Orleans showcasing
the unique culture of Louisiana. The high quality attractions offer 31
outstanding amusement rides, spectacular shows, scrumptious food and a
variety of live music - everything that makes New Orleans a world-class
Living Science Museum
Targeted for completion before the start of the new millenium, the Audubon
Living Science Museum is a 30,000-square-foot facility whose first phase
is being devoted to the world of insects. With nearly a million known
species and 3,000 new ones discovered each year, insects comprise the
largest animal kingdom on Earth. With a history that dates back 350 million
years, they are an intriguing group, exhibiting complex behaviors, amazing
diversity, and in many cases, great beauty.
Morial Convention Center
900 Convention Center Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70130. Phone: 1-504-582-3023,
Fax: 1-504-582-3088. Visit the world-class Morial Convention Center, located
in the heart of America's most alluring city-- along the mighty Mississippi
River within walking distance of the French Quarter, Jackson Square, the
Aquarium of the Americas, and dozens of first-class hotels.
From hardwood forest to freshwater wetlands, this nature preserve offers
easy explorations of Louisiana's unique habitats...all just minutes away
from downtown New Orleans. One of the nation's most respected urban nature
centers, it offers a hands-on museum, a planetarium, greenhouse, butterfly
garden and miles of hiking trails. The learning adventures are also enhanced
by the many native animals which often reveal themselves to those who
explore this unspoiled wilderness. A welcome getaway for families in search
of outdoor outings, the Nature Center also serves as a vital resource
for environmental education in the Gulf South region.
New Orleans City Park
1 Palm Drive, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70124-4608. Phone: 504-482-4888
- More than you'd expect - Golf, Tennis, Boating, Softball, Botanical
Garden, Celebration In The Oaks, Family Fun and so much more!
New Orleans Sports Arena
1501 Girod Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70113. Phone: 504-846-5959 -
Next to the world renowned Louisiana Superdome, the newest entertainment
center in the South has opened its doors and added to the world class
entertainment of New Orleans. The innovative design of the arena provides
for 17,000 seats for hockey games, 18,000 seats for basketball games,
and 19,000 seats for center-stage events.
Six Flags New Orleans
12301 Lake Forest Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70129, General Information 1-504-253-8100.
Six Flags New Orleans, formerly Jazzland Theme Park, announces new rides
and entertainment and more than $20 million in capital improvements. Visitors
can ride on new roller coasters including Batman: The Ride, a sleek and
powerful suspended, looping roller coaster based on the legendary DC Comics
super hero, Batman. Another new roller coaster, located in the parks Mardi
Gras area, will feature three wicked inversions and more than 1,900 feet
Superdome Sugar Bowl Drive
Phone: 800-756-7074 - Dominating the skyline of New Orleans, the Louisiana
Superdome stands as a monument of the imagination. Less than a mile from
the historic French Quarter, the mighty Mississippi and most of New Orleans'
major hotels, the Dome is something every visitor to the city should see!
Don't be fooled by the slightly more modern look -- some of the most amazing
tombs in New Orleans are here. Not to be missed is the pyramid-and-Sphinx
Brunswig mausoleum and the "ruined castle" Egan family tomb,
not to mention the former resting place of Storyville madam Josie Arlington.
(Her mortified family had her body moved when her crypt became a tourist
attraction, but the tomb remains exactly the same, including the statue
of a young woman knocking on the door. Legend had it that it was Josie
herself, being turned away from her father's house, or a virgin being
denied entrance to Josie's brothel -- she claimed never to despoil anyone.
The reality is that it's just a copy of a statute Josie liked.) Ruth of
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse was entombed here in 2002 in a marble edifice
that looks remarkably like one of her famous pieces of beef.
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
Some of the hard-core voodoo practitioners in town might scoff at the
Voodoo Museum, and perhaps rightly so. It is largely designed for tourists,
but it is also probably the best opportunity for tourists to get acquainted
with the history and culture of voodoo. Don't expect high-quality, comprehensive
exhibits -- the place is dark, dusty, and musty. There are occult objects
from all over the globe plus some articles that allegedly belonged to
the legendary Marie Laveau. Unless someone on staff talks you through
it (which they will, if you ask), you might come away with more confusion
than facts. Still, it's an adequate introduction. Who wouldn't want to
bring home a voodoo doll from here? The people who run the museum are
involved in voodoo, and there is generally a voodoo priestess on-site,
giving readings and making personal gris-gris bags. Again, it's voodoo
for tourists, but for most tourists, it's probably the right amount. (Don't
confuse this place with the Marie Laveau House of Voodoo on Bourbon St.)
The museum can arrange psychic readings and visits to voodoo rituals if
you want to delve deeper into the subject.